Sunday, 19 April 2015

Day 75 of 182. Now I allow myself to be happy.

Day 75 of 182

Sunday 19th April


Going back today to blog that I began writing last Sunday.

I’ve been thinking a lot about triggers and how they are a big part of recovery from Eating Disorders and any addictions. The negative thoughts and behaviours it caused for me - they were my addictions.

To be where I am right now 70 days into this experiment, happy, is amazing.

I chose 182 days for this for two reasons:

Number one it would mark a year since the book The Secret came into my life -4th Aug 14-

Number two I felt it would be enough time to make some progress in dealing with and recovery of my Eating Disorder and anxiety.

When you want to stop a behaviour you think about the things that can trigger it in the first place.

You want to learn what they are and how to either avoid them or manage them. When the negative behaviour is related to food it is said it can be particularly hard as food is something we all need, you can’t simply abstain. Not that “simply abstaining” is an easy feat when trying to give up anything.

Triggers for me changed depending whether I was restricting food or in a cycle of binging and purging. Restricting food and over exercising made me feel in control of my life so anxiety was definitely a trigger for this, if I was stressed about anything making my diet stricter made me feel calmer at least on the surface.

That is the way I lived for years and at this stage I was completely in denial of any problem. Training and dieting for competition last year became the perfect way to hide it, though clear to me now, I really didn’t think of it like that at the time.

If I was restricting being home alone was no problem, I decorated Jessica’s birthday cake last year with hundreds of sweets and butter icing, and not a morsel passed my lips.

 If however I was in a “bulimic” phase being home alone meant binge. Keeping such “high standards” with my diet- people would often tell me how they admired my strength - I felt I was failing if I ate “bad “foods in public so would secretly overeat twice a week on the nights Christian was training and the children were in bed. I genuinely didn’t allow myself to see this as a problem just a secret habit like someone who might have the odd sneaky cigarette.

Something that was always with me no matter what I was doing with food or exercise was the negative voice inside of my head telling me I was not good enough or thin enough. It was a constant.

 Even during the periods in my life when I ate pretty normally this voice remained.  The only respite I ever had from it since the age of 10 or 11 was when I first read The Secret last year.

 I actually began to feel good about myself. In fact I almost made the decision to not compete at all until a conversation with someone who told me “to forget about all this positive stuff in my head and think about getting in the shape required to step on stage” it really hurt at the time.

Hearing that knocked me right back, I had felt a degree of love towards my body but that night I stared at progress photos of me in my bikini and cried. The “obnoxious voice” (Arianna Huffington’s perfect description) delighted in this and back in business only shouted louder than ever.

The day I stepped off of stage the voice was quiet, for that day I still held the fantasy vision of a life with balance, to be able to eat sweets with my children and order off a menu. I have a photo from that day with a huge smile, it was genuine I really believed that fantasy life was about to begin.

It became clear in the weeks after that it wasn’t. The realisation then acceptance that I had a problem led to severe anxiety.

The ground caved in beneath me and I felt I was free falling. All control gone, replaced with chaos.

Eating foods I hadn’t tasted in years I was unable to stop, anxiety increased, I began to put on weight. Weight gain made my anxiety rocket and the only way at first I could regain any control and feel less of a failure for eating these foods was to make myself sick after eating.

Soon this made me feel even worse. The voice in my head was in its element I was caught in a nightmare and I could see no way out. At this stage I was again withdrawing completely into my own world, consumed completely in a fog of negative thoughts.

You will often hear people how Eating Disorders aren’t just about food, they are about control. As I researched the matter this came up time and time again and it wasn’t hard for me to in point where this came from.

 I don’t believe there is a right or a wrong way to deal with any issue but I do feel that going over and over events that have caused you pain and suffering just bring more of the same.

Again I read that to punish yourself this way, to deny yourself the one thing we all need to survive stems from a deep rooted dislike of yourself.

It was true for me, I hated myself.

 A horrible thing to accept and say but I knew it was the reason I put myself through such torture.I believed I deserved it. My mind had decided a long time ago that I was not worthy of a good life.

So back to the triggers.

At first managing and avoiding triggers was all I wanted to do. Taking the first small and manageable steps that made me feel more in control and more normal. Still calculating my food but slowly introducing previously “bad” foods in moderation. At this stage I wanted balance but couldn’t imagine loving myself regardless of my body shape or ever being completely free.

As I followed my ten rules they worked together and naturally I began learning to love me, I started to believe I deserved a good life. Believe that I deserved to feel happiness, excitement, joyful anticipation of all that is to come. That I deserve for my dreams to come true.

And that got me thinking about not being in “recovery”.

 Recovery is great but I wanted recovered.

As I felt happier and happier each day the realisation of the biggest trigger came. The one that gave the voice in my head free reign. For my low self-esteem and negative feelings…

Feeling happy.

Anytime I had felt happiness or excitement that voice would come in loud and clear and put me back in my place.

I realised it now because I was feeling happy and not having that feeling interrupted.

An example of the many occasions this had happened was last year, getting ready for a meal out with a group of friends after the competition. I knew I had put on a bit of weight but I felt ok, had got a new outfit. I had just text a friend to say I was excited and no more than five minutes later the obnoxious voice was off. Urging me to eat chocolate, biscuits to break my diet, a cruel self-sabotage knowing that if I did this I would doubt how I looked in my outfit and not want to go.

It didn’t happen only over nights out, success in work, great exam results, pay rise, a family holiday. Any time I was happy that negative voice put an end to it.

Now I allow myself to be happy. It’s lovely.

Because I love myself now. I know it’s a difficult one to say, to not see it as selfish to put yourself first.

When I didn’t love myself I was a lot of the time frustrated, angry, stressed always working too hard, busy, cleaning the house, finding jobs to do, on my phone, dieting, exercising, pouring so much energy into making my life difficult. Never fully present, rarely giving my family full attention.

It was exhausting. As if I had a permanent headache- a part of my brain always whirring away pushing me down.

Now since beginning this life changing experience.

I love myself.

 It means I allow myself time to be present in each moment. That if the dishes stay unwashed a while so I can write on my gratitude list, take 5 minutes to sit quietly and de stress, listen really listen to what my children are saying. I no longer spend hours, days agonising over decisions about food. I laugh more, we all laugh together more. Everyone benefits.

 Does that sound selfish to you?

It can be so hard to love yourself, but we love others and happily admit to it. Our family, our friends.

Turning that negative & obnoxious voice isn’t easy but when it speaks to you ask yourself “Would you speak to a friend this way?”

When you become a friend to yourself it becomes easier to let go of the things you can’t change, the past, guilt, anger, regrets. The what if’s and should have’s.

Starting fresh, becoming my own friend and learning to love myself was the key that unlocked the door to a life beyond my wildest dreams.
On May 7th a dream is coming true because I get to talk about how I did this. I am bursting with excitement because it feels as if I have been given a magic potion and I want to share it with the world.

Who doesn't want to live the best life possible? For more information about my talk and how to be there click on link below...